Occasional Paper Series #41
Narrow conceptions of what counts as mathematical thinking and of what it means to be good at mathematics have led to inequitable distributions of resources and opportunities for students. Mathematics for Social Justice (M4SJ) is a movement that seeks to help young people see mathematics as a rich, relevant, analytic tool for understanding and influencing issues that are important to them and their communities.
School mathematics geared toward utilitarian aims offers an anemic representation of the power of mathematics and its potential to support a broader range of social objectives. Educators aiming to counter this limited perspective have argued for a more authentic representation of mathematical activity that also dismantles the role of mathematics as a conservative gatekeeper of the status quo. For these educators, equity and social justice pedagogies that democratize access to knowledge and opportunity are now more necessary than ever.
In this issue of the Occasional Paper Series, we invite teachers and researchers to submit papers that highlight mathematics as not just a tool of economic growth, but also as a participatory venue for critical mathematical inquiry (CMI) in K-12 classrooms. We define CMI in the following way:
- Critical: an interrogation of systems of power, privilege, and oppression that strives to remedy political, educational, economic, and social inequities and injustices.
- Mathematical: powerful forms of thinking and reasoning that include pattern seeking, conjecturing, connecting, experimenting, generalizing, visualizing, representing, and proving.
- Inquiry: an approach to knowing and understanding mathematics that draws on and builds upon learners’ current knowledge by exploring the mathematical world, asking questions, solving problems, testing theories, validating ideas, and explaining relationships.
With a special emphasis on what “doing mathematics” looks like when math is pursued for critical consciousness, the goal of this special issue is to identify, explore, and generate new pathways for action at the intersection of mathematical inquiry and education for social justice.
Some questions that papers might take up include:
- How can we broaden commonly held beliefs about mathematics by rethinking what it means to know and do mathematics?
- What do norms for classroom participation and student engagement look like in K-12 mathematics classrooms that promote social justice?
- How does CMI impact issues of identity and agency for students and/or teachers?
- What roles, intentions, and activities of teachers, students, administrators, or researchers support the development of mathematics teachers as transformative intellectuals?
- How do teachers leverage students’ cultural, community, and home-based funds of knowledge to provide opportunities for mathematical engagement and the advancement of mathematical thinking?
- What do mathematics and mathematical activity look like in classrooms built around important and personally meaningful issues?
- How can mathematics class promote problem solving and cultivate critical thinking in ways that prepare students to become critical and active participants in democracy?
As CMI is inherently an iterative, reflective process, proposals should highlight the successes, failures, and ongoing struggles that educators face as they seek to embed CMI in an education framework of social justice. Additionally, since the Occasional Paper Series is distributed in a web-based environment, while textual submissions are welcome, videos, artwork, podcasts, graphic essays, links, or other media are also encouraged. These alternative forms of representation can offer vivid examples of classrooms orchestrated around CMI.